We reviewed all the OSHA accident reports for tower crane accidents dating back to 1984. This review taught us that tower crane accidents are rare and anything can go wrong when a tower crane is on a job site.
Given the height involved and the momentum when something falls from the crane, tower crane accidents are likely to be fatal.
It is hard to miss a tower crane on a job site. There are the massive cranes that are hundreds of feet high.
When you are in a city with a lot of construction, it seems like an entire city skyline features these cranes.
When you see a tower crane, it is entirely evident how it can be dangerous for the operator and anyone nearby.
There are smaller tower cranes than the giant iron structures, but they also involve height and are similarly hazardous.
Lifting Heavy Loads to Extremely High Places
Tower cranes are used for hoisting and transporting materials at a job site.
They are beneficial when the contractor is building a tall structure. The tower cranes will hoist the iron and the materials necessary to build the upper floors.
The construction company may need to move other heavy materials around. However, there are numerous dangers involved when tower cranes are in operation.
Tower crane accidents are rare, but they will generally cause serious injury when they happen.
These tower crane accidents sometimes result from a defective tower crane. When this happens, the injured worker or their family can file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer.
There is also a possibility of winning a construction accident lawsuit against the employer if they were grossly negligent and cited for OSHA violations. The injured worker or their family must file a workers’ compensation claim.
The Dangers of Tower Cranes and This Type of Equipment: Do Tower Cranes Fall Over?
Some of the dangerous aspects of tower crane operation include:
- Disassembly operations
- Failure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions
- The use of wire rope
- Operation near power lines
- Lifting heavy loads over its lift rating
- Hoisting and use of the boom hoist and hoist drum
Tower Crane Accident Statistics
Nearly 60 workplace accidents involving these cranes have been reported to OSHA in the past three and a half decades. Surprisingly, not all of these tower crane accidents have been fatal.
Of those, 32 tower crane accidents involved fatalities. This is because of the wide variety of accident causes. Not every tower crane accident involves the crane itself or something falling from the crane.
There is an average of 1.5 tower crane accidents per year.
However, over the past three years, tower crane accidents have increased slightly. From 2017-2019, there have been ten tower crane accident reports.
OSHA Tower Crane Rules for Worker Safety
OSHA has many rules that apply to tower cranes to safeguard employees on the site. The OSHA regulations about tower cranes are found in 29 CFR 1926.1435.
All employer procedures must be followed, as well as the general requirements. Here are some of the rules with which employers are expected to comply to ensure their workers’ safety:
- Employees must not be under the tower during erecting or dismantling the crane 29 CFR 1926.1435(b)(2).
- The crane operator should not operate the crane at wind speeds higher than those specified by the manufacturer. 29 CFR 1926.1435(b)(4)(iii)
- On job sites where more than one fixed jib (hammerhead) tower crane is installed, the cranes must be located such that no crane can come in contact with the structure of another crane. 29 CFR 1926.1435(b)(6).
- In assembly/disassembly, the maximum counterweight and/or ballast specified by the manufacturer or registered professional engineer familiar with the equipment must not be exceeded. 29 CFR 1926.1435(b)(8)(ii).
- Employees must use all necessary safety devices and tower cranes must be operated by a competent person.
- The tower crane must be kept in the proper condition, and tower crane foundations must be inspected.
- You can find a complete list of OSHA rules affecting the operation of tower cranes here.
Causes of Tower Crane Accidents
Here are some of the common causes of tower crane accidents reported to OSHA:
- The tower crane may overturn or collapse. This poses a danger not just to the crane operator but also to other employees in the area. There are some reports of employees being injured by falling cranes. Other tower crane accidents in this category could include crane tip-overs.
- Workers can fall from the crane boom or through the crane hatch. They may also fall from the tower itself.
Tower cranes can injure workers when loads fall from cranes and strike employees. Employees can’t safeguard themselves from falling tower crane loads. This category would also include injuries caused by cargo swinging from a crane.
- Workers can be trapped between the crane mast and the boom.
The employer is responsible for ensuring that all employees follow safety procedures and protocols and can be held at fault for any tower crane accident.
Examples of OSHA Tower Crane Accident Reports
Here are some of the most recent tower crane accident reports made to OSHA:
- An employee was killed when they were struck by rebar falling from a tower crane.
- Two employees were killed when a crane that they were disassembling collapsed and struck a commercial building. Two people in their vehicles in the immediate area were killed too.
- An employee suffered fractures when he fell through a hatch opening.
Boom Lift OSHA Investigations and Fines
- August 2017 – $27,435 fine from Virginia Safety Office. An employee suffered multiple leg fractures when pinned in the driver’s protective structure after being struck by a grappling hook and tipped over. The employee later died from sepsis.
- January 2015 – $4,950 fine from Calumet City Office. Five employees were working on the erection of a crane tower when one of them became pinned between the climbing unit and the frame of the tower crane. He died of his injuries.
- February 2012 – $23,350 fine from the Los Angeles office. An employee suffered unspecified injuries when two people assembled the boom of a tower crane and skipped steps in the process. When they removed pins from the crane, the part collapsed and fell on the employee.
It is essential to note that tower cranes threaten workers on the work site and threaten people in the immediate vicinity.
There have been reports in recent years of crane collapses, including one in New York City in 2016 that killed a man that resulted from the allegedly negligent operation of the crane.
Thus, not only do tower cranes give rise to workers’ compensation claims, but they can also lead to crane accident lawsuits.